Matt Stewart explores whether the exponential rise in the popularity of campdrafting in rural and outback Australia threatens the grassroots of thoroughbred racing.

Nonda Southern Cross and Mark Buttsworth
Terry Hall and legendary competitor and sire Hazelwood Conman. Campdrafting is attracting a growing fan base among young horse riders in rural Australia. (Photo: Image supplied).

At school we read a book of Henry Lawson short stories called Joe Wilson And His Mates. Each yarn was different but each carried the same theme.

The theme was the bush, often bushies moseying into town. In one story townsfolk were bewildered by the lone cattleman who rode in bone dry despite a full day’s storm.

On the last page his secret was revealed. He’d strip naked, shove the clobber in the hollow of a tree and wait the storm out.

Horse racing has many bush heroes. Like old mate and his curiously dry clothes, Peter Moody, John Size, Tommy Smith, Phillip Stokes, George Moore, Darby Munro, Glen Boss and Hugh Bowman meandered into town via the best riding school there is.

The bush and the outback taught so many future racing heroes not just how to ride horses but to understand them.

Half a century ago a handful of bush horse pursuits galloped side by side.

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